Nourish with NorthBay Dietitians

Nourish is a blog written each week by NorthBay Healthcare dietitians. It focuses on health and nutrition with educational information, tips and advice as well as an occasional recipe.

Feeding Young Children (Without the Fight)

August 19, 2019

By Melinda Scholten

Do you have a picky eater? They will only eat Nutella and chicken nuggets? Or does your child eat everything, maybe too much of everything? It can be a challenge to strike a balance with small children when it comes to nutrition. And the last thing parents want is to fight around the dinner table.

It is alarming how easy it is to disrupt our children’s own ability to regulate food intake. The inborn mechanisms they have can be overridden by external harmful beliefs. Our attempts to help our children eat more or less can actually backfire. The last thing we want to do is cause our children to have eating disorders or the difficulties we have with food ourselves. But there is hope and a strategy that works, for parents and children. Dinner can be calm and nice!

Parent/child feeding interactions were studied by researchers at Stanford University and were distilled into two amazing books by Ellyn Satter, R.D., who pioneered the Division of Responsibility (DOR) approach. In the first one, “Child of Mine: Feeding With Love and Good Sense,” parents learn the general framework for how to build a healthy relationship with food.

When you read this book, you will likely think things to yourself like, “Wow this really makes sense!” or “I think I knew this but it’s not what the popular wisdom or my next door neighbor tells me.” If you have ever heard or said the phrase, “Clean your plate” or “No cookies until you eat all your broccoli” you need this book.

One of the most important concepts in the book is the Division of Responsibility. Parents have a job to do, and children have a job to do. Parents are not supposed to do the children’s job, and doing so can cause feeding problems and food fights. Obviously, children are not supposed to do the parents’ job. If both parties stay on their side of the line, everything goes smoother!

The second book is “How to Get Your Kid to Eat…But Not Too Much.” This addresses issues from undereating to overeating, and the best strategies for parents. You will be surprised when you read the calming, reassuring, no-nonsense recommendations. When you put them in to practice, feeding your child will be a joyful process not a distressing battle.

If you are going to a baby shower, consider giving copies of these books to the new parents. What could be a better gift than a healthy relationship with food from birth?

If you are a parent, grandparent or childcare professional I encourage you to read them and soak in their message. Food fights will be a thing of the past!

For more information, check out the website:

The author is a registered dietitian with NorthBay Healthcare.


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